MR. ROBERT HALL was born in 1728, April 15, old style, at a village called Black-Heddon, Northumberland. When twelve years old, he was brought under deep concern of soul. Hearing another youth, who was himself very profligate, repeat some awful things respecting the torments of hell, which he had heard "the parson say at church" a few days before, he was immediately, on this relation, seized with an overwhelming sense of guilt, and the misery of eternal banishment from God. From that day, self abhorrence attended with black despair occupied his mind continually; often accompanied with horrid temptations and blasphemies which ought not to be uttered. He could see no way of escape from everlasting ruin, nor was any satisfactory method of salvation pointed out to him by the minister he then sat under. Thus he lived for months and years, as on the brink of hell, without a gleam of hope; and so oppressed with this constant burden, that he could scarcely think of any thing else, and hence often thought of himself that he had not common sense. -- Near the beginning of this time, he met with a painful accident, by which he broke his arm and three ribs; and before he was cured, being sent out into the harvest-field, on a young horse, with his arm in a sling, and riding near a place where they were felling some trees, the sound of the axe affrighted his horse, which ran away with him, and threw him among the fallen branches. By this fall his arm was broken again, with his other arm and collar bone, and his shoulder put out. But he has repeatedly declared, that all the pain of these broken bones did by no means equal the anguish of his mind. The doleful sound of 'damnation; damnation,' seemed continually in his ears. He apprehended that his sins were unpardonable, and that God could not save him if he would. He really thought God must be reproached as an unholy Being, if he shewed favour to such a sinner; and therefore he concluded it was a sin for him to desire salvation. During this long season of distress, he had some paroxysms of anguish still more violent than what be felt in general, with now and then a little occasional relief. And one time having imbibed a notion, some
how or other, that it was impossible for hito to obtain acceptance with God, and to be finally saved except he arrived at a state of sinless perfection, he strove very hard for it. ID order to bind himself more effectually to duty, he entered into a written covenant with God; this he did, it is thought, more than once. However, he always broke in upon his engagements, and was convinced that he had sinned again. He was much concerned about this, and the notion still continuing that he must either arrive at sinless perfection or perish, he concluded, as the last expedient of which he could think, that he would enter into a covenant with God written with his DTO blood; and - he actually tied a ligature round his finger, pricked it? procured hlooa4 for that purpose, and gave himself up to God to be ruined to eternity if he ever sinned again. The form of the covenant is not known, but the tenor of it was never to sin again while he lived. For two or three days he thought he kept it, but after that he was convinced he had sinned again. Then he thought it was all over with him, and he concluded that he must be damned* For a time he was sorely tempted, and almost pressed out of measure. But taking his Bible, (which was still dear to him,) not having his mind any more upon one passage than another; he opened it, and the first words that met his observation were these, Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord; though your sins be as scarlet, tkey shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall he as wool, Isaiah i. 18. This passage afforded him a gleam of hope, though the habitual gloom of his mind soon returned again in a great degree, and he obtained no abiding relief, nor clear discovery of the gospel method of salvation. But a considerable time after this, he took up the bible, and read in Exodus xxxiv. how JEHOVAH proclaimed his name before Moses "The LORD, the LORD GOD, merciful and gracious, &c... FORGIVING INIQUITY, TRANSGRESSION, and SIN, and that WILL BY NO MEANS CLEAR THE GUILTY," &c. But instead of finding any relief from this encouraging passage, he was tempted to throw away his bible as containing irreconcilable inconsistences, in declaring that God would forgive iniquity, transgresssion and sin, while yet it asserts that He will by no means clear the guilty. -- But at length, after continuing in this state of distress and despondency full seven years, he obtained relief by a believing view of the Gospel method of salvation. This he had never heard stated by another; but one day resolving to look once more into the bible, if possibly it might discover to him any door of hope, he cast his eye on Galatians iv. 4, 5. God sent forth his SON, made of a woman, MADE UNDER THE LAW, to REDEEM THEM that WERE UNDER THE LAW, &c. Immediately a new train of thought struck his mind, Christ was MADE under the law, -- then he was not uuder it originally; -- for what end was he made under the law? -- to redeem them that WERE under the law: -- were under the law!-- then they are not under the law now, but redeemed.-- There is, therefore, a way of redemption for sinners from the curse of the law, by which it is possible even I may be saved! -- Being thus enlightened to see that God could save him, if he pleased, without debasing his own perfections, the bare possibility of salvation, in a way consistent with the divine glory, made his heart glad indeed. He now began to search the scriptures, for further discoveries of this glorious gospel: and having once got hold of the right clue,
he read them as it were with new eyes. The difficulty was now solved, which had once tempted him to burn the bible; he understood how God could forgive sin, and yet not clear the guilty. Soon after this, his own salvation began to appear not only possible, but probable, and at length certain. This was in May, 1748. He now was convinced, and rejoiced that salvation was of GRACE indeed, and abhorred the Arminian sentiments which had so long held him in dreadful bondage. He remarked long after to a friend, "perhaps I should never have detested that system as I do, had I not once drank into it, and felt its effects." On this account he left the minister upon whom he formerly attended, and travelled five miles to another Presbyterian meeting where the gospel was preached, and joined in communion with that people. The minister at this place was a Mr. Dryden, who had a few young men under his care designed for the ministry. Mr. Hall contracted a peculiar intimacy with two of these students, Mr. James Rutherford and Mr. William Peden.
About this time there began to be a great noise in those parts, respecting the Anabaptists, as they were styled, who had licenced [sic] a house for preaching, about twelve miles off. Mr. Hall's mother having married again, her eldest son Christopher left her, and went to reside in the county of Durham. And now Robert heard that his brother Christopher had joined these Anabaptists at Hamsterley; he abhorred the very name, and did not like to hear his brother mentioned, because he was one of them, and had married a sister of the man at whose house they had set up preaching, five miles from Hexham. At last, however, he agreed with his two friends, Rutherford and Peden, to go and dispute; with the Anabaptist minister, that, if possible, they might put a stop to his farther progress in that neighbourhood. Accordingly under colour of Mr. Robert Hall's visiting his new relation, they went together to the place, called Juniper-dye-house, on a Saturday evening when they knew that the minister, Mr. David Fernie, would be there, ready to preach on the morrow. They were all three kindly entertained, and according to their eager wish, soon got into a close dispute upon baptism. They were three to one; nevertheless, in about two hours, the young men were all entangled and ashamed. They then went out, laid their heads together to muster up fresh arguments, and returned to the company and renewed the debate: but to their great mortification, were again quite silenced, though not convinced. It had been their design to have stopped and heard Mr. Fernie on the morrow, but the two students were so chagrined that they would not stay, but set off homeward. After this repulse, they all three met frequently, to fortify themselves for a future attack, being resolved not to give up the point, but to go again when prepared. But they were disappointed in their purpose of going together, for Mr. Dryden soon after gave up his academy, and that scattered them. However, Mr. R. Hall determined he would go once more, and try what he could do by himself. Accordingly he got what books he could against the Baptists, intending to confront Mr. Fernie with arguments from them. But upon thinking what Mr. F. might possibly urge m reply to these arguments, he found none of them would stand: so that by searching the 'scriptures upon the subject,
and reading Wilson's Scripture Manual, which fell into his hands, he was convinced of believer's baptism, without any more dispute. The next time that he saw Mr. F. he was baptized by him, -- Jan. 5, 1752, at Juniper-dye-house aforementioned, and received into the little church at Hexham: it was then a branch of a larger church, whose principal meeting-place was in the county of Durham, where the minister then resided, but visited this place once a month; another branch of his church met at Marten, in Yorkshire a few miles south of Stockton-upon-Tees.
The church conceiving that Mr. Hall was possessed of ministerial talents, urged him immediately to attempt expounding the scriptures; and by their persuasion he made a trial privately, before the members of the church, and founded his discourse on the same text that he left for his funeral, "It is finished." He has often said, he began where he should have left off, and that if he knew which should be his last sermon, he would preach it from those words. After five or six months trial by the church, Mr. Hall was solemnly called out, by them, to public work, about June, 1752.
Mr. Hall was settled at Arnsby in 1753. The church and congregation being small and very poor, never raised him so much as L51 a year: "nor indeed," said Mr. Hall, "for several years after, and my family increased fast, having had fourteen children in all. But I found my heart so united to the people, that I never durst leave them, though I often thought I must. I trust the Lord was with us of a truth, and the fifth chapter of the first epistle of Peter was habitually impressed on my mind. It appearing pretty clear to myself and my wife, that we were where God would have us to be; this sense of duty and a willingness to live honestly, made us resolve in the strength of the Lord, that we would not run into debt, let us live as hardly as we might: which resolution he enabled us to keep. But many and unknown difficulties we grappled with: However, I am thankful I have been enabled to continue with the people to this day, of whom I can say with truth, I love them in the Lord."
Soon after his settlement at Arnsby, the doubts of his call and qualifications beset him; and on a Monday, he desired his wife to go to the people, and desire they would provide a supply for the next Sabbath, as he could not preach. She refused, and said, Try what the Lord will do for you. On the Saturday he repeated the request to her: and she denied, saying, Stay till to-morrow, and if they must be told so, go and tell them yourself, for I cannot. He went; and after telling his dismal ditty to the people, an old father said, Sir, go up into the pulpit and pray; and if you find your mind set at liberty, proceed in preaching; if otherwise, come down and we'll spend the time ia prayer: for I trust you are with a sympathizing people. He went to prayer, and soon found his soul at perfect liberty, by the letting in of those words, Come, for all things are now ready. Almost every member present expressed the greatest satisfaction, and the preacher said, he found so great a fulness in the words, that he thought he saw matter enough in them to serve him to preach from as long as he lived.
[From American Baptist Magazine and Missionary Intelligencer, May, 1819.]
Memoir of Rev. Robert Hall
Father of the Rev. Robert Hall of Leicester
(Continued from the March issue.)
MR. HALL was justly and highly prized by his brethren in the ministry, especially those who belonged to the Baptist Association, (consisting principally of churches in Leicestershire and Northamptonshire,) which he was greatly instrumental in forming. And several of their annual letters, on the most important articles, were written by this excellent man. None of them have been more deservedly esteemed than that which he wrote in the midst of his most heavy affliction, viz. in the year 1776, upon the DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY. The letter being much approved by many of different denominations, a second edition was called for, and in December, 1783, he had a printed on a larger type, to which, by the desire of Mr. Ryland, jun. he annexed, Some Thoughts on the causes of Salvation and Damnation, in answer to Mr. Fletcher of Madely.
In the year 1779, at the Association at Northampton, Mr Hall delivered a discourse from Isaiah lvii.14. Cast ye up, cast ye up, prepare the way, take up the stumbling-block out of the way of my people. This sermon he was earnestly desired to print with such circumstantial alterations or enlargements as he might judge proper. It was published by subscription in 1781 under the title HELP TO ZION'S TRAVELLERS: Being an attempt to remove various stumbling blocks out of the way, relating to doctrinal, experimental and practical religion. - This little volume, which principally continues a vindication of the genuine doctrines of grace, from the objections of Socianians, Sabellians, Arminians, and Antinomians, has met with considerable approbation from godly, judicious, and learned men of various denominations.
In December 1783, he had a very narrow escape from being smothered in the snow; of which he gave a very affecting accounnt, in a letter dated January 15, 1784, and then closed it with these sweet lines: " -- Since I saw you, I have had more pleaseure in my work, than has been common with me. Indeed (but I beg you not to mention a word of it anyone.) I have had the most blessed half year in my soul, that I remember ever to have enjoyed. The approach
of Sabbaths has been pleasurable to me,
He died on March 13 1791, in the 63d year of his age.
To be continued
American Baptist Magazine and Missionary Intelligencer, March and May, 1819. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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